The heirs of Nazi victim and Jewish Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy announce that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has transferred ownership to them of Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period pastel entitled “Head of a Woman”

WASHINGTON, DC, March 31, 2020 /24-7PressRelease/ — The heirs of Nazi victim and German Jewish banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy are pleased to announce that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (National Gallery) has transferred ownership to them of Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period pastel Head of a Woman (1903).

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy sold Head of a Woman in or around late 1934 after intensive and escalating Nazi duress – specifically calculated to exclude Jews from the economy and society of Germany – forced him to begin liquidating his celebrated private art collection, which included masterpieces by such luminaries as Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Braque and others.

The heirs previously have reached three settlement agreements regarding Picasso artworks Mendelssohn-Bartholdy sold in Nazi Germany.

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy hailed from Germany’s most prominent and illustrious Jewish family. The famous composer Felix Mendelssohn was a family member, as was Enlightenment philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn & Co. bank, established in 1795, was among the 5 largest privately-owned banks in Germany. The family had initiated many other successful business enterprises as well. In 1920, Mendelssohn & Co. and other prominent banks founded BDO AG (known then as the Deutsche Waren-Treuhand-Aktiengesellschaft). See

The Nazis seized power in Germany in January 1933 and immediately began implementing their long-declared agenda to exclude Jews from the economy, culture and society of Germany. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s identity as a leading Jewish private banker, member of the Board of the Berlin Stock Exchange, and noted modern art collector – along with his wealth and prominent social standing – marked him as a priority target for immediate Nazi antagonism.

The Nazi regime organized boycotts of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s bank and related businesses; coerced him to forfeit land; compelled him to flee his residence in downtown Berlin lest he become a victim of random Nazi violence; excluded him from important business and professional leadership positions crucial to the success of Mendelssohn & Co. bank; and vilified him and his family in the press as Jewish enemies of the state.

By 1934, Nazi policies had all but negated the going concern value of Mendelssohn & Co. bank, and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s income plummeted to a fraction (14%) of what it had been in 1932. To redress his precipitous and irremediable cash flow deficit, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy began liquidating the illustrious modern art collection that he had invested much of his adult life assembling.

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy had never sold a single significant work before the Nazi takeover in 1933. But Nazi persecution and concomitant economic, social, and moral duress compelled him to consign at least 16 masterpieces (including Picassos, van Goghs, Braques and a Renoir) in little more than one year (late 1933 through early 1935). And before he died of a heart attack in May 1935 he had sold most of them – including Head of a Woman.

After Mendelssohn-Bartholdy died, the Nazi regime continued its relentless assault upon the Mendelssohn family. The Nazi regime “Aryanized” the remnants of Mendelssohn & Co. bank, sent family members to concentration camps, forced others to flee Germany, and confiscated their art collections, businesses, and other property In approximately 12 years of genocidal rule, the Nazis regime economically and socially decimated one of Europe’s most talented and successful families.

The Mendelssohn heirs thank the National Gallery for transferring to them this distinctive artwork that is both a poignant reminder of the enormous impact that Nazi policies had upon the contents of many private and public art collections today, as well as their family’s troubled history.


John J. Byrne, Jr. or Thomas J. Hamilton
Byrne Goldenberg & Hamilton, PLLC
Telephone: (202) 857-9775

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